“If At First You Don’t Succeed…”
February 25th, 2014
by Alva Gardner
“… try try again.” Everyone knows this phrase and while it is definitely corny, it is also very true. I associate it with my mom, wiping tears out of my eyes, or screaming with me at the top of our lungs because I had just encountered yet another narrow-minded person who told me something was impossible. So much of what I’ve accomplished in my life is because of my belief in this saying. My belief is that anything I want to do in life is valid and worth doing; even if, as it almost always does, accomplishing that goal takes some ingenuity and a little extra work. Remembering that your priorities in life are legitimate and that you should not sacrifice is crucial, especially when you’re someone with a disability, living in an able-bodied society.
My mom has been like a personal cheerleader all my life. She raised me to be a strong, confident, and most importantly, an assertive woman who goes after what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for the help and accommodations she needs to get there. As I said in my very first blog post, independence comes from doing whatever it is that an individual needs to do in order to feel independent. Many of my successes came about because of my comfort with asking for the help that I needed. Success does not necessarily mean doing something on your own. It means realizing what you can do on your own, modifying things to make that easier, and getting help when you need to.
While many of the things I have had the opportunity to do in my life fall under this category, there is a specific example I would like to share with you; perhaps you can extrapolate from it and apply the basic concept to an activity that interests you. Aside from living in an apartment, and all of the smaller components that go along with said endeavor, there is one activity that I do on a regular basis, which required a significant amount of trials and failures before I developed a functional, independent system. That activity is getting my nails done.
Now, you are probably thinking, “Getting your nails done?! That seems like such a mundane activity to write about!” On the surface, you are right; getting one’s nails manicured sounds like an insignificant and childish activity to spend an entire blog post discussing. In fact, figuring out of way to independently get a manicure was one of the first triumphs I had in the long process of independent living. Cutting one’s fingernails is not presumably something most (able-bodied) people spend a lot of time thinking about. They do not necessarily have to plan in advance when they are going to do it, ensure that someone will be around to help them, or stress over whether or not the people they implore to assist will be able to hold their hand steady enough to succeed. All of these things, and several more, are a part of my thought process every time I think about cutting my nails.
Admittedly, I mostly have my personal care attendants cut (and occasionally paint) my nails; as this activity does not occur as a part of my routine every day, I have to plan ahead and ensure that I leave time in an otherwise completely full routine to do so. Sometimes, however, either because I run out of time in the routine or my attendant is not able to stay late if we run over time, I cannot manicure my nails with my attendant. I am then forced to come up with an alternative method: professional manicures.
Fashion Nail on University Avenue is my favorite nail salon. I have been getting manicures there since I was in high school. They are, to this day, the only salon that will give me a decent manicure if I go there by myself. The first several times I got my nails done there, I brought a friend or attendant who would hold my hands steady while the manicurists worked. This helped them see (there is somewhat of a language barrier, so explaining to them what was necessary to help me would have been challenging) what was necessary to help me. Through visual demonstration, along with some explanation, the women at Fashion Nail now know that when I come in for a manicure they are going to need two people to work on me: one to hold my hand steady and the other to do my nails.
Unfortunately, because of this extra step they must take, I usually have to wait a while before they can help me. While not ideal, this is an outcome of needing special assistance. The truth of the matter is that not all of my solutions come wrapped up with a nice bow on top. Sometimes I have to make sacrifices (in this case, time) in order to reach the level of independence I am striving for. It is a worthwhile sacrifice to me, however; I am able to pamper myself without needing to coordinate timing and logistics with an attendant or friend. Whether your goal is getting your nails buffed and polished, or traveling somewhere on public transit by yourself, develop systems that work for you and put you in control of your own life and actions.